I Won’t Let My Changing Body Keep Me Down

The way I see it, we’ve got two clear choices whenever we’re confronted with (icky) changes in our bodies as we age:

A) Approach them head on, with a dose of humor, and deal with them or B) Ignore them and permanently sulk.

I’ve opted for A. When I entered the postmenopausal era, changes to my body came fast and furiously. The once beautiful, curly hair on the top of my head was thinning. Examining my balding scalp, with horror, every time I looked in the mirror, didn’t strike me as something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Instead, I decided to get a fabulous hairpiece to cover the only thin thing on my body.

My tummy started pooching out. I could shriek every time I passed the full-length mirror, undressed, or I could cut back on the carbs, as well as wear clothes that helped me minimize the pooch, which is exactly what I did.

And, heaven help me, my vagina also was getting pretty dry. I could suffer in silence and tell David I had an ongoing headache or I could actually bring it up at my next visit to the doctor and see if there were any treatments. I did and there were.

As many of you already know, I’ve been part of an alliance for the last year, called GLAM™ (Great Life After Menopause), sponsored by Novo Nordisk, a company that cares very much about women’s health and wellbeing.

GLAM™ is made up of outspoken women, like me, who want to empower women like you (bet you didn’t know that 75 percent of us, postmenopausal, have vaginal dryness?) to talk to your partners, talk to your health care providers, talk to your friends and know that there are therapies to take care of your ED.

Yes, you read it right. I said your ED. The other ED, as in Estrogen Deficiency, the cause of vaginal dryness in the first place. Besides, isn’t it time for the men to stop hogging all the attention with their ED?

And now you can turn to a fun new website, aptly called The Other ED, to learn every single thing you need to know about menopause, estrogen and vaginal changes. Yep, you also read that right. TheOtherED.com makes it really enjoyable to learn about a condition that isn’t especially amusing when you’re experiencing it. The site is smart, it’s great looking and it’s fun. Just like you!

As I said at the top of this blog, you can be woebegone (a cool word, eh?) about the changes in your body. Or you can confront them, with a dose of good cheer. Start doing the second, right this minute, on TheOtherED.com. Ladies, you owe it to yourselves!

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It’s Time To Speak Up

I stopped taking estrogen about five years ago, and the biggest change I’ve noticed since then is that my vagina is undoubtedly drier. Not desert or sandpaper dry, but dry enough to take away the pleasure of sex, even masturbation. Lubricants help, but they’re temporary fixes. (It’s kind of refreshing to be able to be so straightforward about so many things at this stage in my life!)

When the gynecologist examined me a couple of months ago, I didn’t think to bring up the subject and she didn’t say anything, either. So I made an appointment with an endocrinologist I’ve seen for my bones and risk for diabetes, and she also happens to have a special interest in menopause. She had never brought up the issue of vaginal dryness, either, at my previous visits.

On this visit, the doctor first asked me a bunch of questions: Do I have hot flashes? Frequent urinary tract infections? Have I used lubricants? Is sex painful? When did I go off hormone therapy? Do I sleep ok? She also checked the meds and supplements I take, how much exercise I do, and the results of my blood chemistry, which I had checked a couple of months ago.

Then, I started asking the questions.

Geri: Why didn’t you or my gynecologist [in the same medical center] ever bring up vaginal dryness or other painful symptoms after menopause?

Dr. C: It should be talked about and elevated to an important issue in postmenopausal women. But when you have 15 minutes with a patient, and she has other issues, it is sometimes difficult to address it unless it is very pressing with her and she brings it up, or I’m treating her specifically for menopausal symptoms.


Do You Lead A GLAM Life?

I’ve got a bunch of things going on with my body, inside and out, and it’s not all delightful. Thankfully, much of it can be addressed: Calcium and Vitamin D for my bones; exercise and good diet for my heart; a few nips and tucks for my jowls and sags; hearing aids for my ears; lotions, serums and creams for my skin; and glasses and drops for my eyes.

During the last few years, another exasperating change in my body made a surprise appearance: Dryness in places other than my skin, eyes, and hair. Aside from using gobs of lubricant for it, I assumed there was nothing else to be done. So gobs of lubricant it is. But once the lubricant is gone, the problem remains. I never brought it up during my annual visit with my gynecologist and he never brought it up with me.

3 out of 4 women who’ve gone through menopause (that’s a whopping 75 percent) experience some sort of vaginal dryness.

Serendipitously, I recently received an invitation from a pharmaceutical company, called Novo Nordisk, to join its new initiative called GLAM™ (Great Life After Menopause), which is an alliance of five FOFriends. (Clever!) I gladly accepted the invite, and quickly learned one astounding fact: 3 out of 4 women who’ve gone through menopause (that’s a whopping 75 percent) experience some sort of vaginal dryness. I always like to be different from everyone else ;), but in this case, I was comforted to know that I’m not. But how would I have known, since no one ever talks about vaginal discomfort.

Our declining levels of estrogen account for the dryness, as well as for other unwelcome symptoms, including pain with urination or during intercourse, discomfort, itching, urinary tract infections, even bleeding during intercourse.

GLAM™ is here to tell all our FOFriends who are experiencing any of these feelings that it’s time to start talking about vaginal discomfort, because there’s no reason to suffer in silence. As a matter of fact, there’s no reason to suffer at all, since our symptoms are treatable. Talk to your partner. Talk to your health care provider. To help you to feel comfortable about bringing up the subject, and to learn about your treatment options, visit vaginaldiscomfort.com. This is the best time of our lives. Don’t let vaginal discomfort get in the way of the life you deserve.

I am a member of GLAM™ (Great Life After Menopause), a women’s health initiative sponsored by Novo Nordisk.